During September this year (2nd to 27th) the HSE construction inspectors will be targeting the refurbishment sector with a major inspection and enforcement initiative. They are aiming to achieve a sustained improvement in the overall standards within the industry and they will be concentrating on smaller sites which might traditionally have been overlooked.
They will be looking to send a message that they will use the enforcement tools at their disposal. These range from the inspector simply offering advice or information, through to issuing warnings and serving improvement or prohibition notices, all the way through to prosecution, so beware!
If you already carry out risk assessments, plan your work around the precautions that this identifies and communicate this to the people involved in the work then this should not pose you any problems. If on the other hand your work is more haphazard and unplanned then you should be looking to tighten up your processes. Remember that the law requires employers and self-employed contractors to carry out the steps below, failure to do so leaves yourself open to warnings, notices or prosecution as mentioned above.
Firstly you should carry out a risk assessment. This process is used to identify potential hazards in your work and your workplace. You can then identify any precautions that need to be taken to avoid injury from these hazards. These should be then communicated to everyone involved in the work via a method statement; this describes how the work should be carried out safely.
The inspectors will be concentrating on the main causes of accidents and ill-health in the refurbishment sector:
Falls from height
Working at height especially on roofs is highly dangerous so proper precautions should be taken even if the work is only expected to take a few minutes. Almost 1 in 5 of deaths in construction work involve roof work and most of these could be avoided with proper training and use of suitable equipment. Your risk assessment should consider safe access, edges and openings, fragile surfaces and sloping roofs. You should also consider the equipment to be used: ladders, scaffolding, fixed and mobile towers, edge protection. The lists above are for example only and are not exhaustive.
Site good order
Traffic management: obviously this is for larger sites. On average 7 people a year die as a result of an accident with a vehicle on site. This why the law states that a site must be organised so vehicles and people can safely navigate the site.
Protect the public: the law says that you should not put the public at risk whilst carrying out work. Therefore, access should be controlled so that unauthorised people cannot access the site.
Proper facilities for your site operatives should be organised. This includes toilets and drinking water.
Storage and waste management should be appropriate for the materials and waste that you are managing and in accordance with Environment Agency requirements. You should also keep accurate paperwork showing risk assessment, inspection reports, method statements and also log any injuries or dangerous occurrences.
You should make sure that your site remains structurally sound so proper surveys and assessments should be carried out whilst consulting with the appropriate building control departments. Care should be taken to prevent structural collapse. If involved in demolition then appropriate arrangements should be made.
If you are responsible for the maintenance or repair of a building then you have a duty to identify any asbestos and manage the risk appropriately. If any work is to be carried out that is likely to disturb the asbestos then you should hold the appropriate licence and work within the conditions of that licence. Appropriate protection should be used by workers and the spread of debris should be minimised. Anyone involved should have the appropriate instructions and training; if not they should be excluded from taking part in the work.
Information regarding any remaining asbestos (location and condition) should be shared with clients or other appropriate persons so their duty of care can be properly managed.
Silica is found in most general building materials. Silica dust is known as RCS (Respirable Crystalline Silica respirable means the dust is invisibly fine). Breathing RCS can result in silicosis which is a serious and irreversible lung disease that can result in permanent disability or even early death. The amount of this dust that is breathed in by workers must be minimised.
You should show that you have good controls in place and that they are being observed and that they are working.
Your site should have working toilet facilities (chemical toilets are acceptable), along with a supply of drinking water and appropriate washing facilities with a suitable rest area. The minimal requirement is dependant upon the size and duration of the site.
The above is designed to point you in the right direction. If you are not up to date with the rules, you should not consider it a comprehensive list of what is necessary. For further information and guidance please visit the HSE website at hse.gov.uk